Professor Jonathan Gosling

Interdisciplinary learning

Name Professor Jonathan Gosling

Professor of Leadership Studies

College The Business School

Sustainability and Business

In his role as Professor of Leadership studies, Jonathan Gosling has played a major role in ‘greening management education’ through co-founding the One Planet MBA. The HEA issued a statement that 60% of university students want to have sustainability in their curriculum, and the Business School at the University of Exeter is responding to this in a variety of ways. The Business School integrates sustainability modules within all its courses, as Jonathan says, “you can’t teach marketing without thinking about public perceptions [of] sustainability and the earth...”

The One Planet MBA is a postgraduate programme combining business and management education, with a focus on sustainability and ‘change – for good’. The idea behind the course comes from this question; “what would we want to teach, and what would students want to learn, on the assumption that we have only one planet?” The course developed through collaboration with staff from WWF, and with an “innovation cohort”; a group of highly-able people taking the course whilst at the same time working with faculty to help form its direction. There is an opportunity to develop this concept to progress into a One Planet, sustainability-focused, Business School, to emphasise that “this is what we mean by business, [and] business has to make a contribution to this”.

The importance of combining business with sustainability cannot be overlooked. “The economic system is a sub-system of the ecology… We are natural creatures… It’s those natural systems that the economy hopes to serve. Business is absolutely essential to the economy. If business… forgets that fundamental ecological dependency, then it will obviously be unsustainable.” The One Planet MBA works towards rethinking approaches to business; “coming to think about oneself as interdependent with… nature… is very different to thinking about oneself as a conqueror of nature, which has been a dominant ideology for 150 years or so”.

Interdisciplinary work within the One Planet MBA Sustainability Challenge

“The One Planet MBA Sustainability Challenge brings together MBA students from all round the world to tackle a particular challenge, sponsored by one or more companies in a particular area.” These organisations, such as Coca-Cola or waste management companies, “provide key contemporary, real-world challenges”. Students work together in teams from a variety of different backgrounds, and share ideas in order to create solutions to these problem. The teams are then judged by a panel made-up of faculty, experts and the sponsor company. Winners get the opportunity to visit the particular country in question and contribute to the work already taking place to try and tackle the issue.

Aim 6: Multi-disciplinary learning for global challenges 

To provide all students with the opportunity to explore the relevance of different disciplines to contemporary challenges facing the world

What students say:

Dilip Sathyanarayana Bokkasum, MBA Student, on the One Planet MBA Challenge:

  • "This year we are exploring the social aspect of sustainability. There are teams from UK and across Europe, who have come to participate… The event is conducted by the full-time MBA students; we organise the event..."
  • "It’s all about working together in the teams, [but also] about leadership… To me, personally, it’s about having the confidence to build up my communication skills, my interaction with different people… It’s a great opportunity to meet people from different parts of the world."

Interdisciplinary work to tackle global challenges

"The issues we face don’t come packaged in the format of the disciplines."